Sunday, February 19, 2012

#5 Prospect - Josh Bell

I'll go ahead and rank Josh Bell at #4.  No, I'm not talking about on my prospect list; he's still #5 on that list. #1 on this mystery list is Andrew McCutchen. #2 is Michael McKenry's 3-run homerun against the Cubs in early July of last year (relive it here). #3 is hometown hero Neil Walker's grandslam on opening day against the Cubs.  The list is the most exciting moments/developments surrounding the Pirates over the past several years, at least to me personally.  McCutchen's development into a superstar and those two homeruns during last year's sensational run (even though that run felt short, come on, it was fun as hell) were something special that has given hope and excitement to Pirates fans.  The drafting and signing of Josh Bell has done the same.

When the first day of the draft ended, the Pirates had a big decision to make.  With the first pick in the second round, the Pirates would be on the clock first to start the second day of the draft.  Two players stood apart from the rest for the Pirates to chose from.  First was Josh Bell, a highly regarded high school outfielder with a big bat and big signability concerns.  In fact, Bell was considered to be unsignable, going as far as to inform each team not to draft him.  Second was Daniel Norris, a lefty prep pitcher also considered a first round talent who fell due to his commitment to Clemson.  His signabililty concerns weren't as extreme as those associated with Bell, but Bell was regarded as the better talent.  With the world awaiting with baited breath (Okay, maybe that was just me) the Pirates decided to roll the dice and selected Josh Bell with the 61st overall pick.

Over the next few months, debate raged on whether Bell would sign or attend Texas.  On the night of August 15th, minutes before the midnight deadline, Josh Bell did agree to become a Pirate for five million dollars, tied with Archie Bradley for the sixth biggest signing bonus in the draft.  The Pirates, along with their fans, were ecstatic, especially considering according to an interview with Neal Huntington on ROOT sports, Bell was sixth on the Pirates draft big board, making him more than worth the money.

In a system strong on pitching but lacking in hitting, Bell is a welcome addition. A switch-hitter, Bell put up a .ridiculous 552/.687/1.073 line his senior year playing in Texas, which provides solid competition.  The kid's power was ridiculous, hitting a homerun every 5.8 AB's.  He also walked 48 times and only struck out 5 times, although part of that was being pitched around.  Still, Bell had quite the impressive high school career.  There are some negatives associated with Bell.  He's very old for a high school player - for example, Bell had turned 19 a week before he signed and he's 14 months older than fellow draftee Francisco Lindor or, to pile on, Bell is a week older than Delino DeShields Jr., the Astros's first round pick in 2010 - and while he has decent athleticism, he will immediately have to play a corner outfield spot.

That means Bell's bat will have to carry him.  Luckily for the Pirates, that's a strong possibility.  His swing and plate discipline should allow him to be a .300/.400/.500 switch hitter with average to above-average defense in left or right field.  Even as a high school kid, Bell projects to move fast through the minors.  He should open at West Virginia, and I'm looking forward to enjoying watch him crush the ball in a Power uniform, but hopefully for a short time.

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